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Ham in cider with celery & raisin sauce.

With relatively few exceptions, it is difficult to find much traditional Irish food that is, in fact, indigenous to the island. His may be one of them; the Editor has not encountered a recipe that adds celery to the standard raisins that often accompany ham in some form or another. The recipe has been adapted from Theodora FitzGibbon’s. Six or more servings.

our_best_ham_b-W.jpgFor the ham:

-a good 4 lb ham
-½ lemon
-a peeled onion stabbed by cloves
-4 or 5 sprigs parsley
-a dozen or so whole black peppercorns
-about 1 quart dry hard cider

For its glaze:

-3-4 Tablespoons breadcrumbs
-2 Tablespoons brown sugar
-½ teaspoon mace
-a generous number of grinds of pepper
-enough of the cider stock to set the glaze

For the sauce:

-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
-2 Tablespoons flour (Wondra will not lump)
-about 2 cups of strained cider stock
-about ¾ cup minced celery
-about 1/3 cup raisins or dried currants

  1. Put all the ingredients ‘for the ham’ into a pot, bring it to a boil, then simmer the meat for about 20 minutes a pound.

    Preheat the oven to 350°.

  2. Make the glaze by mixing the ingredients ‘for the glaze:’ you want barely enough of the stock to bind it.
  3. Press the glaze into the ham ham and bake it in about 2 cups of the cider stock until the breadcrumbs toast and the glaze turns golden crusty, usually in about 30 minutes.
  4. Make the sauce while the ham bakes by melting the butter over medium heat and whisking in the flour. Once the roux marries, slowly add about 2 cups, more or less depending on how you like the consistency of your sauce, of strained cider stock. After the sauce sets add the celery and raisins. Do not overcook the sauce; the celery should keep its crunch.
  5. Serve the sauce hot with the ham.


- The size of the ham is unimportant to the proportions of the simmering stock; a bigger ham should require neither more aromatics nor cider.

- British and Irish recipes for ham routinely instruct readers to soak the meat overnight. The step is unnecessary for most American cooking, or wet cured ‘city’ hams. Saltier dry cured ‘country’ hams (Smithfield is the best known; Edwards & Sons probably is the best) are altogether different, and these days usually eaten in papery uncooked slices. If you do want to cook one you will need to soak it to reduce the salt content.

- The Irish nomenclature for cured pork is a little idiosyncratic. As Theodora FitzGibbon explains, “[i]n Ireland only the leg of the pig is called ham; all else is bacon, which is used in a variety of ways.” Irish Traditional Food (London 1983, 120) The national dish of boiled bacon and cabbage, for example, in fact uses cured but not smoked pork loin. All you do is simmer the pork until tender, add cabbage to the pot and boil some potatoes. The traditional accompaniment is parsley sauce, that is, basic white sauce flecked with green. Our recipe appears both in our recipes and in the practical archive. An Appreciation of white sauce also appears in the lyrical archive.